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Cédric Klapisch’s Paris Kicks Off Hopkins’ Tournées Festival of Contemporary French Cinema Tonight at Mudd Hall

March 2, 2011


Marking its second annual appearance this week, the Tournées Festival of Contemporary French Cinema starts up at the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus Wednesday, March 2, offering two weeks of free, recent French movies. For complete information, visit the festival’s web site.

Below is a quick-hit guide to the opening week’s offerings, with reviews culled from City Paper‘s archives where available.


Writer/director Cédric Klapisch’s Paris, which unwinds like a roundelay portrait of the city itself, involves a large cast of eventually interconnected characters and their lives, but the lively spark that illuminates Klapisch’s earlier work has been replaced by a serious consideration of mortality, due to dancer Pierre’s (Klapisch regular Romain Duris) heart condition, which threatens to end his life should he not get a transplant. He retreats to his flat with a balcony that overlooks the city, where he likes spending his days looking out and imagining all the different stories that may be happening.

Some of those involve history professor Roland Verneuil (Fabrice Luchini) hitting midlife and embarking on a lowly but high-paying TV gig and getting involved with a student, Laetitia (Inglorious Basterds‘ Mélanie Laurent). Others involve the love triangle at the produce market where Pierre’s sister Élise (Juliette Binoche) picks up vegetables to make dinner with once she and her three kids move in with Pierre to keep him company.

Klapisch gamely structures his panorama with a series of subtle parallels–the sibling relationship of Pierre and Élise is played off the one between Roland and his architect brother (Francois Cluzet); the produce market triangle doubled by the one involving Roland, Laetitia, and the young man more her age–and, as usual, an intoxicating mix of images and music (from the likes of French production unit Kraked Unit, Erik Satie, and Bach). But something about the tone feels off: Klapisch’s casual flair for the comic gem is superb–Roland teaching Laetitia ’60s dance moves to Wilson Pickett is nothing but net–but emotional heaviness eludes him, as if he has to turn to an elision of images to convey what words can’t. (For full review, click here.)

Screens Wednesday, March 2, 7:30 p.m. Mudd Hall, Room 26.



Writer/director Abderrahmane Sissako’s 2006 drama follows bar singer Melé (Aïssa Maïga), her out of work husband Chaka (Tiécoura Traoré), and the way international monetary globalization affects daily life in this otherwise ordinary corner of Mali’s titular capital city. Quietly epic.

Screens Thursday, March 3, 7:30 p.m. Remsen Hall, Room 101.

La Danse

Claude Bessy: Traces of a Life

La Danse: Le Ballet de L’Opera de Paris

Saturday brings a pair of dance documentaries to the Homewood campus. Director Fabrice Herrault’s 50-minute Claude Bessy: Traces of a Life tells the story of one of France’s most celebrated ballerinas of the latter half of the 20th century. American may recognize her as Gene Kelly’s partner during one of the segments of his 1956 all-dance experiment, Invitation to the Dance.

La Danse is something else entirely. Pioneering American documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman followed the Ballet de l’Opéra National de Paris as it prepared seven productions, including the late Pina Bausch’s Orpheus and Eurydice.

Claude Bessy: Traces of a Life screens Saturday, March 5, at 1:45 p.m. La Danse: Le Ballet de L’Opéra de Paris screens at 3 p.m. Both screenings take place in Mudd Hall, Room 26.

35 Shots of Rum

35 Shots of Rum

Writing/directing titan Claire Denis’ 2008 drama follows an African immigrant’s life in and around his working-class neighborhood outside Paris. Accessible, inviting, and bittersweet. (For Milan Paurich’s review, click here.)

Screens Tuesday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m. in Mudd Hall, Room 26.

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